If you have been suffering from chronic pain, especially back pain, you may have reached the point where your doctor is encouraging you to have surgery. But, wait! Before you schedule that operation, you should know about the downsides and health hazards of surgery. And never agree to surgery until you have considered all the alternatives, including one relatively new treatment your physician may not be well educated about.
Typical Treatments for Chronic Pain
Once people recognize that their pain has become a part of their life, they usually seek medical treatment to find relief. Maybe this has happened to you: you just can’t take it anymore, so you become willing to try anything to feel better and get your old life back. Common treatments you may have attempted, including those recommended by doctors and wellness practitioners, are:
- Yoga or tai chi
- Physical therapy
- Electric stimulation
- Over-the-counter medications
- Dietary supplements
- Prescription drugs
- Cortisone injections
- Heat or cold applications
You may have tried lifestyle modifications, such as changing how you sit at work, getting a new mattress, or learning how to lift heavy items with less strain. Still, though, the pain persists. Maybe the medications give you temporary relief but don’t last long enough, leaving you with hours each day when you feel discomfort. You might have unpleasant side effects too, and all of this is costing you money without ever getting at the root of the problem.
At this point, your doctor may recommend surgery when more conservative measures, like those above, have failed. Common surgical procedures for chronic pain include arthroscopy, joint replacement, discectomy, and laminotomy.
Why Surgery Isn’t the Answer
If going under the knife makes you think twice, your instincts are right. Surgery carries many risks and has a lot of downsides.
The high (and often hidden) cost of surgery
First of all, it’s expensive. Even if you have insurance, it may not cover everything, between deductibles, copayments, and refused charges. You may be responsible for pre-op tests, such as bloodwork, medical imaging, cardiac assessments, and other diagnostics to ensure surgery isn’t contraindicated. You may schedule surgery believing everything is paid for, only to receive a huge bill a few weeks later. And, of course, you may have to take time off work, hire someone to help with housework and errands, or get a pet sitter while you recover.
The recovery period itself is no cakewalk. Your movement will be limited, and regaining mobility can be painful. Usually, prescription opioid pain medications are prescribed, which are addictive and have other adverse side effects, like excessive drowsiness and constipation. You may not be able to climb stairs or go to the bathroom by yourself. It can take weeks or months to get back to doing simple things like going to the grocery store or driving your car. Surgery for degenerative disc disease, for example, involves three to six months of post-surgical rehabilitation.
And that’s all when everything goes according to plan. What if you have an adverse reaction to anesthesia or postoperative complications?
Right after surgery with general anesthesia, it’s common for patients to have a wide variety of problems, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sore throat from intubation
- Trouble regulating body temperature
- Muscle aches and back pain
- Difficulty urinating or moving your bowels
- Itching and allergic reactions
- Postoperative delirium (confusion, trouble focusing, etc., which can last up to a week after surgery)
- Ongoing cognitive dysfunction
- Hematoma (bleeding beneath the skin)
- Pain or bruising at the incision site or where the local anesthetic was injected
- Pain from other sites if bone grafts are harvested
- Surgical site or internal infection
- Deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung, the third-highest cause of cardiovascular death in the country)
Some complications can occur during surgery as well, and these tend to be more severe or even fatal:
- Malignant hyperthermia (potentially deadly overheating)
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
- Nerve damage
- Stroke or cardiac arrest
- Hemorrhage (excessive blood loss)
- Accidental awareness (waking up during the operation)
Then there’s the possibility that surgery doesn’t bring you the relief you hoped it would. Some studies show that surgery provides relief initially but does not supersede relief provided by conservative measures in mid-term and long-term follow-ups.
Spinal fusions don’t always heal. And even if they do heal, they don’t always eliminate or even reduce pain. Unfortunately, this surgery is irreversible. Also, this process changes back mechanics due to immobilization of the fused segment. As a result, nearby segments take on more stress, which can cause them to weaken. Many patients have second fusion surgeries based on this effect from their first surgery.
We mentioned nerve damage above, which is a real possibility, particularly for operations targeting areas like the spine or sciatic nerve. Nerve damage can present as loss of sensation, tingling, pain, and inability to move certain muscles.
Other less desirable results include no change in original pain and stiffness or loss of mobility in joints that were the target of surgery. Sometimes scar tissue forms, reducing the range of motion in the joint, leaving the patient worse off than before.
These are just the most frequent complications noted after surgery. Other potential problems include:
- Data on the efficacy of artificial spinal discs is still evolving
- The lifespan of artificial disks is unknown
- Inexperienced surgeons, generally or with specific procedures
- Anesthesiologists covering too many patients in the OR simultaneously
- Covid risks for hospital visits, especially with long-term stays
Regenerative Medicine: The Treatment No One Is Telling You About
There is a safe, natural alternative to surgery, and it doesn’t involve downtime, addictive medications, or major sacrifices on your part: regenerative medicine. And the best thing about regenerative medicine is that it treats the actual cause of your chronic pain. It’s not a band-aid solution that just covers up your symptoms. And it’s not a health risk the way surgery is.
Regenerative medicine utilizes your body’s healing processes to repair joints and relieve pain, among other benefits. Unfortunately, right now, it’s not usually covered by insurance. However, it’s quite a bit less expensive than paying for useless drugs for years on end, and it’s typically less than what you would pay for out-of-pocket surgery costs.
How does regenerative medicine work? It’s a simple procedure in which exosomes that are ethically derived from umbilical cords are injected into areas of pain and reduced mobility, such as the discs of the spine, hips, and knees. Like stem cells, exosomes jump-start the natural healing process, increasing joint lubrication and helping the body rebuild tissue lost through aging and wear.
The cell renewal process continues for years, making this a long-lasting treatment and one that actually changes the body’s structure to relieve pain rather than only masking it. As a result, it’s ideal for degenerative disc disease as well as meniscus tears, tennis elbow, and rotator cuff injuries.
Because exosomes help fight inflammation, improve immunity, and promote tissue regeneration, they are promising for use in other areas of medicine. For example, researchers are exploring regenerative medicine to treat diabetes, cancer, and a host of other chronic diseases.
Is Regenerative Medicine an Alternative to Surgery for You?
You may be a perfect candidate for exosomes used with regenerative medicine to help reduce or eliminate chronic pain. At RegenerWave Clinic, we use regenerative medicine as part of our functional medicine program to treat the body holistically, addressing pain, gut health, nutrition, and overall energy.
We use a combination of physical examination, medical imaging, and your personal history to see if regenerative medicine is a viable surgical alternative for you. If it is, we create a customized treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.
To learn more, call RegenerWave Clinic today at 954-510-3150, or get in touch online to schedule your consultation.